Main   Almost Bridge 7F60 by Richard Pavlicek  

The First Round Duck

And now, folks, it is my great pleasure to introduce this evening’s guest speaker. Let’s all give a warm welcome to Miss Emily Litella! [Thunderous applause from 300 spectators.]

“Thank you, Richard. Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. I am honored to have been asked to speak to you tonight about the first round duck, and I have done extensive research to prepare. Let me begin:

“According to ornithology experts, fossils formed during the Paleocene Epoch depict a bird species with a curved underside. This is the earliest documented existence, and its genealogy has been traced to the present-day mallard. Over a span of 20 million years the curvature evolved into webbed feet…”

Whoa, Emily! This is supposed to be about the first-round duck in bridge.

“Oh… Never mind.”

Thanks, Emily. My fault for omitting the hyphen. Punctuation counts and can cost lives, as by the editor who forget the comma in “Let’s eat, Grandma.”

Have a seat, Emily, and enjoy a glass of wine. I’ll take it from here. Consider this deal:

Board 1
None Vul
S 3 2
H A K Q 10
D K 9 8 7
C A K 3

1 D
4 H
4 NT
5 NT
6 H
All Pass
1 H
4 S
5 H
6 C
S K 9 8 7 6
H 9 8 7 6
D Q 4
C Q 4
Table S 10 5
H 5
D J 10 6 5
C 10 9 8 7 6 5
6 H South
Lead: H 9
S A Q J 4
H J 4 3 2
D A 3 2
C J 2

North’s raise to 4 H showed at least 19 points, so South tried for slam by bidding 4 S (ace showing). North then used Blackwood to ask for aces and kings, and placed the final contract. Six hearts is a decent contract, basically needing the spade finesse, and there are additional chances if it fails.

West led a trump, won in dummy, and a second top trump was led to discover the 4-1 break (East pitched a club). A spade was led to the jack and West made a clever play, ducking the first round. Declarer crossed to dummy in hearts to repeat the spade finesse, but this time it lost and a trump return eliminated any chance declarer might have had. Down two.

Great defense! West’s first-round duck was more devastating than it might seem. Had he won the king, declarer could get home by ruffing his fourth spade in dummy, and eventually squeezing East in the minors. Even if declarer knew where every card was, he could not succeed after West ducked the first spade.

Can the contract be made? Yes, but I’ll bet you can’t figure out how.
You might wish to try before reading any further. Give up yet?

Two Can Play This Game

Looking at all four hands (but not in real life) South can succeed with the same remarkable tactic: a first-round duck. On the first spade lead from dummy South must play the four. West wins cheaply and returns a trump (nothing matters) won in dummy. Next lead a spade to the ace, then the S Q for a ruffing finesse. Assume West covers and dummy ruffs, leaving North on lead in this ending:

H win 7 S
D K 9 8 7
C A K 3
S 9 8
H 8
D Q 4
C Q 4
Table S
D J 10 6 5
C 10 9 8
North leadsS J
D A 3 2
C J 2

Win the D K (key play) then cross to the ace. Draw West’s last trump and cash the S J, discarding diamonds from dummy. East is caught in a squeeze. Either South’s D 3 or North’s C 3 will be good, and declarer wins the rest.

Got that, Emily?


In fond remembrance of Gilda Radner (1946-89),
creator of the Emily Litella character.
© 1999 Richard Pavlicek